“An American in Paris,” a thrilling, emotional romance at DSM

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For the last year and a half, the musical-theater geeks among us have been obsessed with one thing non-stop. You know what I mean: Hamilton. I admit it, I’m one of those people who need an intervention because I can’t resist making Hamilton references in everything I do (see what I did with “non-stop” in that last sentence?).

So it was an especially thrilling, lovely experience on Wednesday evening to be reminded that with all of Hamilton’s brilliance and innovation and hip-hop audacity, that same kind of brilliance and innovation still exist in good old-fashioned traditional musicals.

To wit: the Tony Award-winning An American in Paris, which runs through Feb. 12 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, and then transfers to the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.

It takes its inspiration and heart from the Academy Award-winning 1951 film of the same name: a brash, exuberant American soldier-turned-artist lands in Paris after World War II; he meets and woos a mysterious, reserved French ballerina harboring a major secret; supporting characters provide both humor and conflict; refreshing lack of a villain (unless you count the ghosts of the former Nazi occupiers); Paris itself starring as a visually stunning supporting character.

But don’t expect a rehash of the movie. The story has been rewritten somewhat quite poetically, and that famous 17-minute ballet at the end has been preserved in terms of tribute and length (I didn’t time it, but it’s long). However, this ballet-jazz rendition is also completely different from the movie’s, breathtaking in its originality and execution.

As Jerry Mulligan and Lise Dassin, Garen Scribner and Sara Esty would certainly make the film’s Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron proud. Scribner oozes grace and athleticism, while Esty flies across the stage as the epitome of balletic precision and emotion. Both shoot out flames of chemistry that definitely prove that ballet can be s-e-x-y.

Also exceptional are the hilariously gloomy Etai Benson as Jerry’s songwriter sidekick Adam Hochberg; Nick Spangler as Henri Baurel (Closeted! He’s a singer! His parents would not approve!), Jerry’s rival for Lise’s affection; Emily Ferranti as Jerry’s art sponsor and would-be lover, Milo Davenport; and especially Gayton Scott as the imperiously oh-so-French Madame Baurel, Henri’s mother. Scott evinces range worthy of a leading role, superbly prim and haughty outwardly but internally a charmingly mess of mushy emotion.

Benson’s Adam serves as the sad-eyed Eeyore of the show. “I love depression!” he declares early on. “Artists have a responsibility to show the dark side of life.” The cast proceeds to do just the opposite, bouncing off each other and the set with infectious joie de vivre. When Adam finally realizes that his French friends were right, that his dirge-like ballet score desperately does need an injection of happiness, he explodes hilariously: “God dammit! I hate it when French people are right!”

Attention must be paid — look, Mom, a theater reference that’s not about Hamilton! — to the direction and sensational choreography by Tony-winner Christopher Wheeldon, Craig Lucas’ book, the set and costumes of Tony-winner Bob Crowley, and lighting design by Natasha Katz.

The music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin, of course, steal the show right along with the dance. The musical was based on the movie, which in turn was based on George Gershwin’s 1928 orchestral composition An American in Paris. You’ll hear the glory of that piece, along with other hummable wonders such as “I Got Rhythm”; a thrilling three-man harmonic convergence on “S’Wonderful”; “But Not For Me”; and “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.”

“Stairway” features one of the quickest, visually monumental set changes I’ve ever seen. One minute you’re in a tiny jazz club in post-war Paris, the next you’re smack-dab amid the art deco grandeur of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall complete with Ziegfeld Follies-worthy dancing girls.

On a somber note (Adam and Eeyore would be proud), it’s astonishing how many lines in An American in Paris — again, unless you count the Nazi references, but then again maybe not so astonishing given the Nazi references — clearly resonated with the audience in this new era of American politics (most of them uttered by Scott’s Madame Baurel):

“The walls have ears … the world is filled with treachery.”

“I’ve covered up so much in the war that I can’t even find me.”

“My mother is obsessed by appearances because she knows what can happen when you are discovered doing the right thing by the wrong people.”

“I want everything to stop changing so often and so quickly.”

We also find out, in a devastatingly emotional moment, that a completely unexpected character was a member of the French Resistance.

So, I say, with all my heart: Vive la France. Vive la Résistance. Vive la musicale An American in Paris.


Fair Park Music Hall, Dallas, through Feb. 12: Prices start at $25. www.DallasSummerMusicals.org or 1-800-745-3000. (Tip: You can also order season tickets for the 2017-18 season, which is your first step toward being guaranteed tickets for the 2018-19 season run of, you guessed it, Hamilton.)

Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Feb. 14-19:  Prices start at $44. www.basshall.com. 817-212-4280.





Oak Cliff’s beloved Lucky Dog Books re-opens at new location — Woof! I smell books!

An interior look at the new store on Jefferson Boulevard. PHOTOS courtesy of Lucky Dog Books.

The wonderfully eclectic Lucky Dog Books, which closed earlier this year when its building’s owner on Davis Street declined to renew the store’s lease, has a festive grand-opening planned this weekend. Authors! Chair massages! Musical potpourri! Classes! You’re sure to find something fun, along with a tote bagful of great books, at great prices. Here’s the info I received by email — be sure to stop in and support this local institution!

The outside of the new store. Lots of parking!

FridaySaturday, and Sunday, July 10th — 12th, 2015

911 W. Jefferson, Dallas, Texas 75208
Bookstore Phone: 214.941.2665

Here’s the schedule:

Friday Afternoon: July 10, 2:45 p.m.

The Writer’s Garret Zine Camp Reading

Featuring younger writers from this neighborhood sharing their work.

Friday Night: July 11, 8-10 p.m.

Poetry Reading with Poets on X+

Featuring Desmene Statum followed by an open mic,
organized & hosted by Opalina Salas

Opalina, who brought Cliff Notes to the neighborhood, is presenting this event
as a kick off to a new monthly poetry series through Poets on X+ that she’ll be
hosting here at the bookstore on the 2nd Friday of each month.
Click on the link to this event to see the info she has provided on Desmene.

Saturday Morning: July 11, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Chair Massage by Samantha Brewer, LMT

Samantha has volunteered to do free chair massages for a couple of hours
to get our day started. I am sure she will be ok with tips if you like what she does.

Saturday Afternoon: July 11, 1-3 p.m.

Author Meet/Greet/Signing with:

Kris Kramer, publisher of The 4th Realm & author of The Wind Riders,
Patrick Underhill author of The Chosen,
Jan Sikes author of Home At Last,
Demethius Jackson author of The Hero of Legend.

All of these authors will do short readings from their books beginning at 1pm
and will then take questions. Afterwards, they will hang out to be available
to chat with you and sign copies of their books which will be for sale here.

Saturday Afternoon: July 11, 3-5 p.m.

Author Meet/Greet/Signing with

Marcus Chapman, on air personality for 97.9 The Beat & author of The Coolest Music Book Ever,
Cynthia Stock author of The Final Harvest of Judah Woodbine,
Jeffrey Eaton author of Murder Becomes Manhattan
George Ramphrey author of Song on a Hill

As with the writers above, all of these authors will also do short readings
from their books beginning at 3pm and then take questions. Afterwards,
they too will hang out to be available to chat with you and sign copies
of their books which will be for sale here.

Saturday Evening: July 11, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. or later

Musical Potpourri

with Ann Armstrong & Steve Hughes leading off, followed by
Jim BushJackson EliBobby (Goof) Huskins & Matt Seevers,
with Cliff Martinez singing and hosting.

We love that all of these folks have agreed to share their music here at the bookstore. We’ve personally heard them all perform and like them a lot.

Ann & Steve do some of the finest blues you’ll hear. They started with local pubs such as Poor David’s here in Big D and festivals close by like Kerrville back in the early days when Rod Kennedy was showing us all how to do this, but have been all over the country by now. Ann’s slide guitar and Steve’s harmonica rifts are not to be missed.

We first heard Jim Bush at The College Street Pub in Waxahachie several years ago and like him so much that we have been back a dozen times. Sometimes, he solos, but most of the time he is playing with musical friends of his which is how we first saw Bobby and Matt. Their folks music is honest and often with a touch of humor.

Jackson has been teaching guitar at the Dallas bookstores for a while now, and it was a real treat to get to see him perform with some of his younger students at the Allgood Cafe which is one of his regular gigs along with The Wine Therapistand Bohemian Cafe in East Dallas. We always are entertained by his shows which show off his musical versatility and guitarmanship. If you miss him here, be sure to look for him around town.

Cliff has been a friend for many years since he first finagled the world’s smallest office space from us at the old location on La Vista near Lakewod in exchange for ad hoc computer hardware services. We were pleasantly surprised when we learned that he was doing karoke regularly on lowest Greenville. We have to confess to never having quite made it to hear him there, but when we heard that he was doing a jazz show at Buzzbrews over on Lemmon Avenue, we had to go. We were very taken by his voice and the quality and feel of his renditions from the American songbook. He currently has a band called Some Guys With Some Dolls which has also played at The Wine Therapist.

Sunday Afternoon: July 12, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Storytelling for and by Teens with stories told by storyteller/host Tim Couch with area teens showing off their abilities as well.

This event was specificaly requested on Facebook by one of our customers,
and we are so happy to have been able to find Tim and his wealth of experience available on such short notice. Check out the link to learn more about his background and involvement with storytelling.

Also Crafts and Storytime for Youngsters with
Suzie Riddle

We added this event at the same time in our children’s area so that you
don’t have to leave the younger children at home while bringing your teens
for the storytelling in our program space.

Suzie has a spent a lot of time with children in her stints as a librarian over the years. Besides the crafts that she will have for youngsters to work on she would love to do a storytime session if we have enough children who would like her to do this.

Sunday Afternoon: July 12, 4-6 pm.
Oak Cliff Appreciation Wrap Up Event with Opalina Salas


Saturday, August 1st, noon to 3pm
Author Meet/Greet/Signing with Michael Thacker.
Lucky Dog Books — Oak Cliff
911 W. Jefferson, Dallas, Texas 75208
Bookstore Phone: 214.941.2665


‘I Can Dream’ — and so can you — with the Dallas Street Choir & Credo Choir on Sunday at the Stewpot downtown

The Dallas Street Choir with Frederica von Stade (far left) in January at the Dallas City Performance Hall.   PHOTO: Joy Tipping
Members of the Dallas Street Choir with Frederica von Stade (far left) in January at the Dallas City Performance Hall. 

Full disclosure: I’m a member of Credo Choir, Dallas’ only ecumenical, faith-based volunteer choir, directed by the brilliant Jonathan Palant (formerly of the Turtle Creek Chorale) and hosted by Kessler Park United Methodist Church. We comprise a variety of religions and come from various churches, but we unite in our ministry: to worship and praise God through song. In January, we sang the Western Hemisphere premiere of Street Requiem (written in honor of those who have died while living on the street) joined by the Australian composers and with renowned mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade as our female soloist. Jonathan also conducts the Dallas Street Choir, at downtown’s Stewpot ministry, and this Sunday at 3 p.m. we’ll all come together for something VERY special. Special in MANY ways, some of which will be a surprise for just about everyone there.

DreamposterIMPORTANT NOTE: The venue has been changed from the outdoor Encore Park Amphitheater to the Stewpot, on the same block, at 508 Park Ave. downtown, just south of Young Street. Plenty of free parking will be available at the First Presbyterian Church (the Stewpot is its ministry) garage right across Young Street. The concert itself is also free, and the more the merrier.

We’ll present the concert I Can Dream, which will feature music by the Dallas Street Choir (made entirely of people who have been or are currently homeless). I don’t know what they’re planning, repertoire-wise, but I can promise it’ll be fabulous. Credo Choir will also perform songs from the repertoire planned for our upcoming cultural mission trip to Iceland, in June. We travel every summer to share musical experiences with choirs and audiences abroad — in 2013, Cuba; in 2014, Latvia, Estonia and Finland; this year, Iceland; next year, Australia.

Credo Choir, the Dallas Street Choir and Frederica von Stade at Dallas City Performance Hall in January, with Jonathan Palant conducting. (PHOTO: Joy Tipping)
Credo Choir, the Dallas Street Choir and Frederica von Stade (center, in red) at Dallas City Performance Hall in January, with Jonathan Palant conducting. 

So, to recap: Sunday, May 17, 3 p.m. at 508 Park Ave., downtown Dallas. Free. Be there. No poncho necessary; we’ll be inside. For more information, visit credochoir.org or dallasstreetchoir.org, or check out the Facebook pages for each organization.

You can still see Lee Ann Womack on Wednesday or Thursday at the Kessler; SRO tix are still available

Country-music wonder Lee Ann Womack (PHOTOS: John Scarpati)
Country-music wonder Lee Ann Womack (PHOTOS: John Scarpati)

If you’re a country-music fan, you owe it to yourself and your ears to be at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff on Wednesday (May 6) or Thursday (May 7) to see Lee Ann Womack (with special guest Adam Hood). The May 7 show sold out quickly, and the May 6 show was added and those tickets also sold whip-fast.

BUT — and this is a big but (with apologies to Queen) — you can still get standing-room tickets with unobstructed views of the stage, either stage right or left, for only $24. Run now to your computer, click thekessler.org and do that! She is so totally worth standing for a couple of hours. I’d stand for her for four hours if she’d sing that long. You know her from “I Hope You Dance,” surely, if nothing else, but her entire catalog is worth listening to repeatedly, and I do.

The cover of Lee Ann Womack’s latest CD.

She’s touring in support of her latest CD, Sugar Hill Records’ The Way I’m Livin’, which embodies all of Lee Ann’s fabulous vocal qualities, and also her knack for picking the best songs from some of the country’s best singer-songwriters. The new CD includes work by Hayes Carll, Mindy Smith and Buddy Miller, among others.

Lee Ann, a Grammy Award winner, has been singled out for “the clarity of a soul that realizes loss is a form of purification, a scraping away of false ideals and excess emotional baggage,” by The New York Times. In other words, this woman is The Real Deal.

Don’t miss your chance to see her in the Kessler’s gloriously intimate, acoustically rich setting. On both nights, the bar opens at 6 p.m., theater doors open at 7 and the show starts at 8. The Kessler’s in the heart of Oak Cliff, at 1230 W. Davis St. For more information, call the Kessler at 214-272-8346. And here’s that link again for tickets: thekessler.org.

Star cabaret artist Ann Hampton Callaway sings the Barbra Streisand songbook tonight & Sunday with the DSO

Acclaimed cabaret singer Ann Hampton Callaway will perform tonight and Sunday at the Meyerson Symphony Center with an all-Barbra Streisand repertoire.
Acclaimed cabaret singer Ann Hampton Callaway will perform tonight and Sunday at the Meyerson Symphony Center with an all-Barbra Streisand repertoire.

Got super-duper plans for the evening? No? Or even yes? If so, cancel them; I’ve got something better for you. Acclaimed New York-based cabaret singer; TV, touring and recording star; and Tony Award-nominee (for Swing!Ann Hampton Callaway will sing the hits of Miss Barbra Streisand tonight at the Meyerson Symphony Center with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Lawrence Loh will conduct. The New York Times wrote of Callaway, “For sheer vocal beauty, no contemporary singer matches Ms. Callaway.” I take that as a pretty good endorsement.

There are two shows left: tonight (Saturday, May 2) at 7:30 p.m..and Sunday (May 3) at 2:30 p.m. at the Meyerson, 2301 Flora St., Dallas.

Here’s the program as listed at mydso.com (it’s irresistible, if you ask me). You can also get tickets at that site, or by calling 214-849-4376 (214-TIX-4DSO).

A Chorus Line Medley
Starting Here, Starting Now
A Sleepin’ Bee

Cry Me A River
A Cockeyed Optimist

The Way We Were
I’ve Dreamed of You

Don’t Rain On My Parade


The Wizard of Oz Medley
Come Rain Or Come Shine
At the Same Time

 /Being Alive
Lover Come Back to Me
A Piece of Sky

Hope to see you there — I’ll be there tonight!

See the 1959 version of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ and meet stars Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker and Pat Boone at the USA Film Festival on Saturday evening


The stars of ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ investigate something intriguing and probably quite dangerous.

Already got plans for Saturday night? Cancel them. I have something SO MUCH BETTER for you. As part of its 2015 series, the 45th annual USA Film Festival will be showing a new digital print of the 1959 sci-fi classic Journey to the Center of the Earth, starring Arlene Dahl, Diane Baker and Pat Boone, all of whom will be in attendance. It also starred the sexy, iinimitable, sadly departed James Mason (who I’m sure will be there in spirit).

Local film historian and all-around fabulous guy Kyle Hall spearheaded the showing, which is one of the festival’s marquee events. It’s at 7 p.m. Saturday (April 25) at the Angelika Film Center/Dallas, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane at Central Expressway, Dallas. Parking is available in the garage at the north end of the shopping center, adjacent to the theater. Best part: Tickets are a mere $10 (cash only; there’s an ATM in the lobby) and are available ONLY at the door, day of show only, starting at 6 p.m. So get there early!

Just forget about the far inferior 2008 remake. Really, forget it. THIS is the one you want to see. Steven Spielberg has said many times that the 1959 Journey was one of his favorite movies, and you’ll see influences to his 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark all through it. We really should have a drinking game for every time there’s an Indiana Jones precursor-reference. I would vote for whisky shots like the scene where Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) totally outdrank that Nepali guy early in Indiana. Alas, the Angelika doesn’t serve such spirits, but I suppose a chug of Heineken would do, as it at least pays reference to the Nazi villains of the film.


The original poster for Journey billed the story, based on a story by Jules Verne and directed by Henry Levin, as “a fabulous world below the world,” and I don’t want to give anything away, but it has one of the most poignant endings I’ve ever seen on film. The synopsis, in brief, courtesy of the Film Festival’s flyer (I can’t improve on their description!):  “James Mason stars as professor of geology Oliver Linderbrook, whose niece Jenny (Diane Baker), lives with him and captures the affections of the professor’s star student Alec (Pat Boone). Following the discovery of a tool bearing a message from an Icelandic explorer who disappeared years earlier, Linderbrook mounts an expedition into an extinct volcano in search of the earth’s core.
“Accompanying him are Alec, along with the widow (Arlene Dahl) of an ill-fated explorer; an Icelandic guide (Peter Ronson) with a pet duck named Gertrude; and shady Count Saknussemm (Thayer David). Ahead of them are giant lizards, a mammoth mushroom forest, whirlpools, the remains of Atlantis and other exotic dangers. (Honestly: I defy you to find a more intriguing synopsis than that. AND a pet duck named Gertrude? Perhaps another Spielberg callout via Gertie (Drew Barrymore) in 1982’s E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.)

“Bernard Hermann’s lush score almost steals the show from the beautiful images by cinematographer Leo Tover and Academy-Award nominated effects by Johnny Borgese.”

It’ll be 132 minutes of pure family-friendly (it’s unrated) bliss. I’ll personally sing you a song of woe and apology if you don’t love it.

The USA Film Festival continues through April. See the full schedule at usafilmfestival.com. You can also call the festival offices at 214-821-3456, although I’m unsure if anyone will be answering the phone on Saturday.

Coco, our rescued Australian Kelpie, gets her 15 minutes of fame w/HuffPost Live


Coco and I were on HuffPost Live’s The Pet Show today! Coco was adopted about 3 years ago, with the help (and let’s face it, begging), of my good friend Ellen Ritscher Sackett, who’s an angel on earth sent especially to help animals in need. Coco was at the Fort Worth shelter and although absolutely gorgeous (we think she’s an Australian Kelpie, the most popular of the Australian herding dogs), of adorable nature and well-behaved (except when she tries to herd me because she thinks I’m her sheeple), she had been put on immediate death row because she had mange.

Here's Coco with her mangy little face when we first got her. She had lost nearly of half the fur all over her body.
Here’s Coco with her mangy little face when we first got her. She had lost nearly of half the fur all over her body.

Mange has to be treated over time, and it’s expensive, so dogs that get it go immediately to “death row.” Like, the next day. A friend of Ellen’s brought her to Dallas that night, we met in a 7-Eleven parking lot and I brought Cocokisses (her official name) home to live with me, my husband and our schnauzer/Corgi mix, Tesla, in our 800-square-foot downtown loft. With no patio. Which means a lot of dog-walking, and Jim does most of it. Jim’s a doggy’s best daddy ever.

And ... here she is trying to herd me because I was about to put shoes on. She knows that means I might be leaving the house.
And … here Coco is trying to herd me because I was about to put shoes on. She knows that means I might be leaving the house, which she considers impolite.

HuffPost Live asked for shelter-pet stories, I managed to tell Coco’s in 140 characters or less (most of my previous editors are now either choking or laughing their heads off at that) and I was chosen as “Pawrent of the Week.” Probably my one of my proudest accomplishments, along with being on Prairie Home Companion in November 2013 and holding my own with Garrison Keillor for a 6-minute unscripted (i.e., I had NO idea what he would be asking me) interview at the Fair Park Music Hall. With 6 million live listeners. No pressure.

Here’s the link to the HuffPost interview (it should be on YouTube eventually): http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/the-pet-show-with-nancy-redd-black-dog-syndrome-marijuana-for-pets-dog-flu/552ed3eefe3444499c00023 (The show was about many things, not just marijuana for pets and the trouble black animals have being adopted at shelters, and it was all fascinating.)

And just because he felt SO left out, here’s Tesla, Coco’s brother, the schnorgi (half schnauzer, half corgi mix, who’s also a rescue pet, from a hoarding situation).

Tesla-Coco's brother

Please, please, if you’re looking for an animal companion, start with shelters and rescue groups. We found our wonderful Tesla through Petfinder.

Follow me on Facebook at JoyDickinsonTipping, and on Twitter and Instagram at @joytipping.